Albanian church 'resurrection' celebrated by global meeting

By agency reporter
13 Oct 2010

The setting of the most recent meeting of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) at the St Vlash Monastry in Durrës, Albania had an inspirational quality, say the organisers.

The meeting's host, the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania, was 'resurrected' in 1991 after having been practically eliminated by the communist regime that had ruled the country since 1944 and had declared an atheist state in 1967, prohibiting all forms of religious expression.

"The Church in Albania has become an example of the power of the cross and the resurrection, a sign of the political relevance of hope and of worship, and how important it is to worship God and not humans' self-made Gods," World Council of Churches' General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said in addressing the CCIA - which is part of the WCC.

In the earlier decades of communist rule, Albania's Christians suffered the same kind of persecution as their fellow believers in other communist countries.

But as of 1967, the persecution was total. Hundreds of churches were pulled down, and many more turned into warehouses, stables or cinemas. Virtually all the monasteries were destroyed or became army barracks.

Since the end of the totalitarian regime in 1991, both the society and the church in Albania have undergone radical changes.

Political reforms gave way to what many refer to as "the resurrection of the church in Albania". A remarkable revival and development began which radiated into many social sectors, too.

The mission of the reconstructed Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania has benefited social development in general in many ways, for example in the areas of health and education.

In April 2010, the head of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania, Archbishop Anastasios, who is also a WCC president, was decorated with the country's highest award, together with the three spiritual leaders of the Muslim, Roman Catholic and Bektashi communities, in recognition of his merits in the field of inter-religious dialogue.

[Ekk/3]

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